When actors receive their Academy Award – known as the Oscar – they often thank their producer, director, family members and even their agent.
Last February, Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in the film “Boyhood.” She used her moment on stage to call attention to pay inequality in Hollywood.
"… it is our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Arquette was talking about a socio-political issue in America. For every dollar a man earns, women are paid around 77 cents.
This issue is called the gender pay gap.
Forbes magazine listed how much Hollywood actresses earn every year. The magazine named actress Jennifer Lawrence as the top-paid actress. She earned $52 million in 2015. Scarlett Johannson came in second at $35.5 million.
The Forbes list included international stars. Chinese actress Bingbing Fan came in fourth with $21 million in earnings.
There is no question about the wealth of these actresses. But the question is: Should they be richer?
According to Forbes, only four actresses earned more than $20 million. Twenty-one actors, on the other hand, made at least that much.
Overall, top actors like Robert Downey, Jr. and Jackie Chan earn hundreds of millions of dollars more than Hollywood’s top actresses.
This isn’t a problem only in the movie business. It tends to be an issue throughout the workforce.
The American Association of University Women studied the pay gap earlier this year. The organization used the American Community Survey. The survey asks questions about the cost of living in the United States.
The most recent data from the survey came out in 2014. It showed men earn about 21-percent more than women in all industries.
Sony hacking revealed gender pay gap
When Sony Pictures was hacked last year, thousands of private emails became public.
Some of them included information about how much money the stars of the movie “American Hustle” earned. Jennifer Lawrence was one of those actors. Despite playing one of the main roles, she did not earn as much as her male co-stars, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner.
Thanks to Arquette and other women, Hollywood celebrities are talking about pay inequality.
Tough or confrontational?
The first issue seems to be the idea that when a man negotiates his salary, he is seen as being “tough.” When a woman does the same thing, she is seen as confrontational and difficult. Some similar words were used to describe Hollywood actresses like Lawrence.
Lawrence recently wrote a commentary for the web magazine, Lenny. She wrote about not wanting to seem “difficult” or “spoiled” when negotiating with producers.
She makes the point that men and women are conditioned to behave differently when it comes to getting what they want.
“I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat [instead of] not getting my fair share,” Lawrence wrote.
Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, who also appeared in “American Hustle,” shared their opinions about the differences in pay.
Cooper said he would work to help actresses negotiate better contracts. Renner first said it was not “his job” to worry about his co-stars contracts. But he then explained on Twitter that people should be recognized “by their merit or service.”
Will Hollywood address the pay gap?
How can Hollywood learn to reward men and women equally? Can the lessons from Hollywood be applied elsewhere?
Dr. Martha Lauzen is a researcher at San Diego State University. She says women who use managers to oversee their activities usually hire other women.
Lauzen looked at the top 700 films in 2014. She found that if the director was a woman, the writer would be female, too, more than half the time. But if the director was a man, only 8 percent of writers were women.
In a conversation with Entertainment Weekly, Lauzen said the decision to pay men and women equally in Hollywood still depends on the studio executives.
“Why aren’t we hearing from the major film studios? They are the ones who could change the gender dynamic. And they are silent. There has to be a will to change,” she said.
California’s Fair Pay Act
California lawmakers credited Arquette’s speech with helping them to pass the Fair Pay Act in October. The new law requires businesses to pay employees doing the same job the same level of pay.
Small differences based on experience or work quality are allowed. The same applies to actors and actresses in Hollywood.
Dan Friedell wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
How are men and women paid differently in your country? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section or on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
role - n. an actor's party; duties
stage - n. the place where theatrical productions are performed
gender - adj. relating to the state of being male or female
gap - n. the difference between two things
brat – n. a child who behaves very badly : an annoying child
hack – v. to secretly get access to the files on a computer or network in order to get information, cause damage, etc.
confrontational - adj. dealing with situations in an aggressive way
contracts – n. someone or something that has the same job or purpose as another
merit - n. the quality of being vry good or worthy
apply - v. to make an official request
hire - v. to offer employment to
studio – n. a company that makes movies
contract(s) – n. business agreement